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Thinadhoo Council refers deforestation case to police

23 December 2018, MVT 14:12
A lot of coconut palms gathered on a land craft from Vaavu atoll island Hulhidhoo. PHOTO: SHIFAG HUSSAIN/TWITTER
23 December 2018, MVT 14:12

The Island Council of Thinadhoo, Vaavu Atoll, on Friday lodged a case with the police over coconut palms from the uninhabited island of Hulhidhoo being procured and taken to Aarah which is currently being developed as a five-star resort.

The police have confirmed their investigation into the case submitted by the Island Council after a considerable number of coconut palms were seen being transported from Hulhidhoo to Aarah on a land craft.

The Island Council states that several matured palm trees are currently visible on Aarah while only about 20 coconut palms were observed before. It is surmised that these trees were sourced from Hulhidhoo.

According to the police officers stationed in Vaavu Atoll, evidence of such activities could not be seen when they observed both islands from a distance after the case was reported.

A police spokesperson stated that they are currently waiting for approval from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) so that the island can be investigated directly.

A councillor who spoke to the local media outlet Mihaaru states that this is the first instance of a resort sourcing coconut palms from another island after the matter was brought to public attention.

Minister of Home Affairs Imran Abdulla had previously declared that he had brought the illegal uprooting of trees by resorts to the attention of police and assured that the matter would be investigated.

EPA mandates that for any projects that require the uprooting of over 200 coconut palms, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must be carried out. This is to assess any potential negative consequences the project may have on the environment.

In addition to this, regulations state that any amount exceeding 200 palm trees, can only be uprooted for causes proven crucial for the development of the island, such as children's parks, landfills and other uses like road development.

Despite the regulations made to address the issue of resorts sourcing coconut palms from islands, resorts continue to source palm trees, citing reasons that 'seemingly' abide the regulations.

The frequency of illegal procurement of palm trees over the last few years has brought EPA under harsh criticism over a lack of accountability.

A recent movement started by local environment advocates under the hashtag #MVTreeGrab has been widely credited as having brought the issue of uprooting palm trees and "tropical deforestation" to a phase of action.

In addition, cases of coconut palms being exported have also surfaced. In response to this Maldives Immigration states that they did not give permission to any party to export local coconut palms and that they have stopped any such activity that came to their attention.

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